Doug Ruth's 1996/97 Trip Reports

Date: 15 Feb 1997 
To: BMW -GS motorcycles mailing list 
Subject: Trip Report - 970215.rpt

Wednesday February 12   

It rained most of the night but the morning dawned bright and sunny and
the views of the surrounding snow-capped mountain peaks was stunning. 
Plaza Aramas was crowded with people enjoying the warm morning sun and the
shoe-shine boys and other vendors were out in full force.  One young lad
had his white llama which for a small fee he would let you photograph or
be photographed with.  Of course my telephoto lens let me get my photo for

I basically enjoyed the nice weather, people watching in the plaza, and
strolling around town.  I got information on roads across the Cordillera
Blanca, which I planned to ride in the next couple of days, and visited
the headquarters of the Parque Nacional Huascaran which encompasses much
of the Cordillera Blanca.  In the afternoon I visited the archaeological
museum in town.

It was sunny all day until 4pm when a thunderstorm moved in quite quickly
and it rained heavily for an hour.  It rained off and on for the rest of
the evening.

Thursday February 13    64706

After a breakfast of chocolate/banana pancakes, I left Huaraz about 8:15. 
It was sunny but, unlike yesterday morning, clouds obscured most of the
surrounding peaks.  My goal for the next 2-3 days was to more-or-less
circumnavigate the Cordillera Blanca, by riding south to Catac, then head
east across the Cordillera Blanca to the ruins at Chavin.  From Chavin I
would ride north along the eastern side of the Cordillera to San Luis,
where I would take another road west, back across the Cordillera to
Carhuaz, which I had passed through 2 days ago.  At Carhuaz I could either
head back south to Huaraz, or make another clockwise loop to the north,
crossing the Cordillera 2 more times. The road south from Huaraz was paved
and passed through the small towns of Recuay, Cayac, and then Catac, where
the road east over the Cordillera began.
I continued south past Catac for 5 miles to the small village of Pachacoto
where another road also headed east across the Cordillera.  I wanted to
make a brief 10 mile trip on this road up the Pumapampa valley to see the
giant Puya Raimondi (Rodales de Puya) plants. This valley and 2 other
valleys nearby are the only place in the world these plants grow.  These
plants, which can tower up to 15 feet tall, flower only once at the end of
a 50-100 year lifetime.  Several miles inside the boundaries of the
Huascaran National Park, these giant plants could be seen dotting the
hillside alongside the road.  I stopped at a natural spring which
emmanates from a gaping hole in the ground known as Pumapashimian (mouth
of the puma I believe).  The hillside on the opposite side of the road had
a handfull of the giant plants nearby.  During the 10 mile ride up this
road, the views of the snow-capped mountains in the distance was
spectacular.  I saw several small, light brown, hawks along the roadside,
but don't know what kind they were.  There were also llamas grazing
alongside the road in several spots.

I retraced my route to Catac, and then headed east towards Chavin on the
other side of the Cordillera Blanca range.  The road was graded dirt for
the most part and in good condition, with a couple construction areas.  As
I reached Lago Querococha where the road really began to climb, the clouds
moved in and I would have intermittant sprinkles followed by sunshine.  I
stopped at the lake for a photo.  The road continued to climb, and the
clouds obscurred any view of the surrounding snow-capped peaks, but I
didn't have any significant rain to speak of.  At the summit, the road was
cut through a large rock face, entering the Cauish tunnel at an altitude
of 14927 feet.

When I came out the other side it was raining lightly and 45F.   The road
descended the Tambillo valley and I had rain down to about 13000 feet. The
road then descended through the Rio Mosna gorge before reaching the
village of Chavin.

Just before the village were the ruins of Chavin de Huantar, a fortress
temple built about 600BC.  There are several large temple mounds, only one
of which is excavated.  Beneath it are numerous underground tunnels,
rooms, and corridors. The most famous item is the Lanzon de Chavin, a 4
meter high dagger-shaped stone monolith, intricately carved, and found
inside one of the underground chambers.  There are many carved stone
heads, only one of which is still in-situ on an exterior wall of the
temple.  The site also contains stylised carvings of the feline, condor,
snake and human deities worshipped by the Chavin culture.

As I left Chavin around 3pm it was once again raining lightly and the road
was quite slippery in many spots.  I rode another 25 miles north to the
town of Huari where I got a room at the Hotel El Dorado, just off the main
plaza for S6.

Today marked the end of the 1st 6 months of my trip, with a little over
15000 miles put on the bike in that time.  Nothing really when I think
about the 10000+ miles in 8 weeks I did on my '92 Alaska trip.  This is a
different kind of trip.

Friday February 14      64831

I got up early and was out looking for an open restaurant by 6;30. 
Restaurant Los Angelas around the corner was just opening up.  In this
area of Peru, a typical breakfast is a sandwich (sanduche) of either eggs,
carne, or cheese.   I experienced another case where you think you're
asking something really basic and easy, but something seems to get lost in
the process and it leaves you wondering what the other person thought you
said.  I asked if they had huevos (eggs) and the waiter says no, that
there is only sanwiches of carne or queso.  However I didn't really feel
like meat or cheese this morning, and persisted in asking several more
times if there really were no eggs, and after several queries, there were
eggs.  I asked for scrambled eggs (huevos revueltos), but was told that
was not possible, only fried eggs (huevos fritos) were available.  OK,
I'll have huevos fritos, but it left me wondering if they were left over
from yesterday or something.  However, when they were served, they were
freshly made, so I'm not sure why they mysteriously became available.  The
coffee was the typical Nescafe instant coffee.

I left Huari (3150m) by 7:15 and covered the 64km to San Luis in just
under 3 hours, making numerous stops to take photos and just to soak up
the views. Initially the road was wet and slippery from last nights rains,
but it soon dried out with the morning sun.  The road crossed a pass at
14200 feet, with several alpine lakes nestled among the peaks which had
interesting parallel strata of rock interspersed with green grass.  The
temperature was 48F. At the pass it was overcast, but by the time I
descended to San Luis at 3130m it was sunny again.

At San Luis, the main road continued north, but I was planning to take the
road which headed west across the Cordillera from San Luis.  There was
another, more heavily travelled, road west across the mountains about 30
km north, but the road I planned to take crossed a higher pass and
appeared to be more challenging, both reasons contributing to my desire to
take it.

In remote towns like this roads are not marked, and as I rode through San
Luis the turn-off was not obvious.  On the other side of town I stopped at
a large complex of brick buildings arranged around a dirt plaza, where I
saw a number of men working, and asked directions for the road to Carhuaz,
the town across the mountains.  The man, who was in the process of carving
a figure of Jesus on the cross, pointed up the mountainside behind the
buildings to where a road was visible climbing along the mountainside, and
said it turned off from the main road at the plaza in town.  I asked him
about the condition of the road and he said it was good, but that there
was some snow at the pass, but only "poco" (a little) and that it should
be no problem with the bike, that it was only about 3 inches deep and was
only for about a kilometer on either side of the pass.  I asked if busses
took this route, which is my standard metric for judging the passability,
although I don't know if it applies to snow conditions, and he said yes.

I asked if I could take a photo of him carving and he said yes.  He then
led me inside his workshop to show me other pieces he had done.  They
included several musical instruments resembling guitars, but smaller, with
intricately inlaid designs on them.  Also other figures and ornate picture
frames carved from wood and several small statues carved from marble as

On my way back through the plaza I asked another man about the roads
condition and got pretty much the same report.  He added that if there was
a storm while crossing the pass, conditions would be more difficult, but
it was sunny and there didn't appear to be any major clouds in that
direction, so I headed west.

The road climbed up the Rio Chucpin valley.  In a small village with muddy
quagmires for streets, the more heavily travelled route continued on
straight to the village of Chacas.  I turned right, onto another muddy
quagmire of a street, continued past the town square and continued on the
road which would take me across the Cordillera.  At about noon I came to
the National Park boundary with a closed gate across the road.  There was
a sign facing the other direction which said the road was open from 6am to
10pm, so I opened the gate, rode through, then walked back and closed the
gate.  The elevation here was 12200 feet.

Words can't do justice to the next three hours of riding.  Actually only
part of that time was riding since I stopped for many photos.  The road
climbed up the Quebrada (stream) Pataca valley and passed below Nevada
Contrahierbas (5900 meters) with a large glacier looming high above.  Each
view seemed to be a bit more spectacular than the last.  The weather added
another factor, as you never knew if the summits were going to be obscured
or not, so when they weren't obscured you were really inclined to snap the

As I approached the pass, clouds moved in and it began misting lightly,
which turned to flurries as I continued to climb in altitude.  Soon snow
appeared alongside the road and as Imade the final climb to the pass there
was a foot of snow along the road, but the road itself was only wet.  At
the pass (15518 feet) the road made a 90 degree turn and passed through a
large cut in the rock, 50 yards long, with high, vertical walls.  Within
this narrow cut, and for about a half a kilometer down the other side,
there was 6-12 inches of snow on the road except for the tire tracks which
were slush.  Of course I stopped for the required summit photo in the
snow.  The temperature according to my REI mini-thermometer was 40F,
though I'm not sure I believe that thermometer any more.  Within a
kilometer of the summit on the other side, the road was void of snow
again, and the weather cleared up, the sun came out, and treated me to
spectacular views of the surrounding snow-capped mountain peaks rising to
19-20000 feet, and numerous glaciers.  I stopped for a timer photo of
myself and the bike, looking back up to the pass.  I had to scramble down
some rocks to get back to the bike before the shutter snapped and almost
scrambled myself over a 6 foot ledge.   But I got the photo and that's the
important thing!  The weather would remain clear, sunny and warm the rest
of my ride to Carhuaz.

>From the pass the road switchbacked down the other side.  The view of the
road at one point looking down, resembled the rungs of a ladder as the
road executed 10 or so almost perfectly symmetrical switchbacks down the
mountainside to the Quebrada Ulta valley far below. Looking across the
valley I was treated to views of Nevada Chopicalqui (20846 feet) and
Nevada Huascaran (22132 feet), the tallest mountain in Peru.  

Once down on the valley floor, the temperature became quite warm, and the
road pretty much followed the Quebrada Ulta all the way to Carhuaz on the
main paved road, midway between Caraz and Huaraz.  I got a room in the
Hostal La Merced, just off the plaza.  I wanted to take a shower, but the
water wasn't working, so I skipped it, hoping to take one later after

About 5:30 dark thunderheads moved in and we had a prolonged thunder and
lightening storm, accompanied by a torrential downpour which lasted well
over an hour.  About 7pm I ventured out to get dinner and the streets
around the plaza were literally rivers, even though the rain had pretty
much stopped a half hour ago.  Both sides of the streets had 6 foot wide
streams running down the sides 3-6 inches deep.  People were hanging out
on the sidewalks, and walking down the narrow "dry" section in the middle
of the streets, unable to cross without getting wet feet.  One
enterprising young lad was making some money by ferrying people across the
street on his 3-wheel bicycle.  I hadn't eaten anything since breakfast,
and easily downed teo bowls of soup, a half chicken, and two orders of
fries.  By the time I finished dinner, the streams in the street had
subsided and getting back to the hotel was easier.

Rides like todays ride are what this trip is all about for me.  Todays
ride is one of my alltime favorite rides.  The scenery was spectacular,
moreso in my opinion, than rides in the Rockies or Alaska.  Words can't
begin to do it justice.  And anyone who rides to Peru on an enduro-type
motorcycle and who doesn't spend several days in this area, the Callejon
de Huaylas, should have their head examined.

Oh, and for anyone planning for and packing for a similar ride, I have
some advice: don't bother bringing extra jets for the altitude, at least
if you have the same set up as I do.  The bike ran perfectly all the way
up to 15500 feet.  There was a bit of power loss, most noticable when
starting out.  I assume that there would be power loss at higher speeds as
well, but at these altitudes on these roads, that's not a problem.  FYI, I
did bring extra jets but haven't used them and don't anticipate needing
to, although there are some higher passes in Chile I hope to hit.

Saturday February 15    64941

After last nights deluge, today dawned bright and sunny with spectacular
views of the snow-capped mountains to the east.  I don't know if it was my
imagination, but the peaks seemed whiter, brighter, and with more snow
than yesterday.

I wanted to bag another 15000 foot pass today, specifically the
Portachuelo de Llanganuco pass, 15643 feet, on the road between Yungay on
the west side of the Cordillera and Yanama on the east side.  I had
decided against doing another loop across the Cordillera and back which
would have taken 2 days.  Instead I'd ride up to the pass and then turn
around and ride back.

>From Carhuaz I rode north on the paved main road to Yungay.  Yungay
suffered a terrible tragedy in the 1970 earthquake, when 15 million cubic
meters of granite and ice from the western wall of Nevada Huascaran Norte
broke loose.  The resulting avalanche picked up a speed of 300 km per hour
as it dropped over 3 km on its way to Yungay, 14 km away.  18000 residents
of Yungay lost their lives when the town was buried under the avalanche. 
Yungay has been rebuilt just north of the avalanche path, and the site of
old Yungay has several memorials and a huge white statue of Christ has
been built on a knoll overlooking the site.  Standing on top of the knoll,
looking down at the path the avalanche took it is hard to imagine it
travelling that distance at that speed.  The forces of nature can be
truely awesome.

>From Yungay, the road heads northeast up the Quebrada Llanganuco valley to
the entrance to the Huascaran National Park. Entrance fee was S2.  Once
inside the park the valley is lined on both sides by shear vertical rock
walls.   About 12 km inside the park are the turquoise-blue Lagos
Llanganuco, two large lakes formed by glacial morrains across the width of
the valley forming natural dams.  The lower of the two Lago Chinancocha is
at 3850 meters.  The road skirts the northern shore of both lakes.  From
the lakeshore glaciers and snowcapped mountain peaks loom above.

Just past the second lake, Lago Orkoncocha, the road begins a torturous
climb up to the pass, and offered great views back down the valley to the
two turquoise-colored lakes nestled end-to-end in the valley below.  Each
switchback seemingly offered a better perspective of the lakes below. 
Looking up, it was difficult to determine where the road went, and thus
difficult to judge if better views were to be had further up along the
road.  At the same time the weather was constantly changing, one moment
bathing the lakes below in sunshine, the next switchback a light rain
would be falling and the the view below obscurred through the mist and
clouds.  I was going to be coming back down this road, but I had learned
that, with the rapidly changing weather, if a photo opportunity presented
itself, take it.  It could be raining and cloudy at the next opportunity. 
So, as the road climbed and offered successively better shots from higher
altitudes, I kept snapping away.  The weather was turning cold, cloudy,
and a light rain was falling as I gained elevation.  At one switchback
where I stopped for a photo of the lakes below and hiked in away from the
road a bit, there were old stone walls and foundations.  I don't know how
old they were but they looked like they could be quite old.

As I approached the 15643 foot summit, the light rain turned to a
combination of flurries and sleet, but the ground at the summit was void
of snow.  At the summit the road passed through a large cut in the rock
walls.  As if on cue, within minutes of arriving at the summits, the
clouds parted and the summit and the surrounding peaks of Yanapaccha
(5593m), Chopicalqui (6354m), Huascaran (6746m), and Huandoy (6359m), were
bathed in sunshine, presenting me with endless photo ops.  I was on my
last roll of film, so I saved a couple of frames, hoping for better
sunshine for the lake views on the ride down.  I hung out at the summit
for about 45 minutes before heading back down, and was treated to
spectacular views of Chopicalqui and the lakes on the way down, finishing
out my roll of film.

By the time I reached the valley floor however, the weather had changed
once again, and a steady rain was falling.  As I passed the eastern-most
lake, several waterfowl were feeding along the shore.  They resembled
geese, but were smaller than Canadian Geese, and were completely white
with black tail feathers.  Unfortunately I had no film left.  It rained
lightly most of the way back to Yungay.

Dogs continue to be a nuisance.  My apologies to any dog-lovers (I like
dogs also, but not when they chase motorcycles), but I scored a direct
blow to the head of one mutt with my steel-tipped Daytona boots.  Usually
the dogs, whether by experience or by luck, stay just out of reach of my
boots, but on this occasion the mutt was a bit more aggressive and got
close enough that my kick landed home and it let out a howl and quickly
gave up the chase.

I had a late lunch in Yungay, then rode back south to Huaraz and got a
room in the same hotel I had stayed in 3 nights before.  The rains came
about 6pm tonight but were relatively light and didn't last long.

My original plans for tomorrow morning were to head back to the coast,
taking the road from Huaraz northwest to Casma, where the ruins of the
temples of Sechin, circa 1500 BC, are located.  Ultimately I still will go
there, but looking at my information about the area around Huaraz, I see
that there is a road up to Laguna Llaca at 17237 feet, passing the ruins
of Willcahuain (circa AD 1000) along the way.  I'm not sure how many
opportunities I'll have to ride to 17000+ feet, so I think I'll try that
first thing tomorrow.  I have no idea if there is snow up there or not.  I
guess I'll find out.